Scholastic video features Taylor Swift on reading, writing, and feminism

My kids and I just watched a very cool 30 minute Scholastic video where Taylor Swift talks with students about reading, writing, and feminism. We found the video because my 11 year old entered an essay contest where she wrote one page about the meaning of Swift’s “Shake it Off” which to her (and probably most people) is a song about how to overcome bullying.

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A die hard Swift fan, here’s my daughter holding her finally finished (almost finished?) essay and her beloved guitar. I am very psyched Taylor inspired her to think about her experiences with bullying and to write about her feelings.

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Obsessed with Taylor since 2012 (and always told she looks like her) here she is dressed as her idol on Halloween that year.

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I was so happy she picked Taylor instead of a sparkly poofy princess, or witch or vampire with a costume that looks just like a princess. (Her younger sister in the background is Batgirl. Unfortunately, she has since realized Batgirl hardly exists in the world and has now lost interest in that character. Sad!)

I can’t believe we hadn’t seen this Scholastic/ Swift video! It’s so good. You must watch it with your kids. Swift is sitting around with a bunch of students and more students are Skyped in. What I loved is that first and foremost, Swift defines herself as a writer. I really appreciated my kids hearing Taylor say this because they think of her as a pop star. Taylor says that she would never want to get on stage and just sing someone else’s songs. She recommends journaling. After introducing the kids, Taylor opens the video with this statement:

I’m really excited to talk to you about reading and writing because I wouldn’t be a songwriter if it wasn’t for books that I loved as a kid and I think that when you can escape into a book it trains your imagination to think big and to think that more can exist than what you see. I think that’s been the basis of why I wanted to write songs and why writing became my career.

What’s the first question, from a 11 year old boy?

I saw that you liked the Emma Watson video about feminism, and I wanted to know what female characters influenced you in literature?

Can you see why love this video? Watch it now with you kids and find out what Taylor says! Here’s the link.

Previous Reel Girl blogs on Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift spoofs psycho ex-girlfriend trope in ‘Blank Space’ video

Mini Taylor Swift gets her hands on ‘1989’ as it hits stores

If Taylor Swift is boy-crazy, is Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’ confessional?

I admit it, I loveTaylor Swift’s ‘Red’

Taylor Swift sings her way from victim to hero, triumphs at Grammys

More on Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

 

 

Berkeley High students, and their moms, launch campaign to stop school sexual harassment

After male students at Berkeley High started “slut accounts” on Instagram, featuring photos of their female classmates along with misogynistic captions, they were suspended. A group of students felt this punishment was a pretty useless way to deal with the systemic sexism they encounter every day at school. These girls took action, creating T-shirts that read “Stop blaming my body for your harassment” and raising money on a GoFundMe page. So far, they’ve collected over $5,000. They hope to fund education and training for students, teachers, and administrators on sexual harassment and how to stop it.

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Students were pushed into action by clueless administrators who held a series of assemblies on harassment that focused on how female students were dressed. Girls were actually warned to think about whether their mothers would allow them to leave the house wearing a certain outfit. But these Berkeley moms were not the type who schooled their daughters on how not to look “cheap” (as opposed to expensive?) or “fast” or “loose.” Refusing to pass sexism on to their kids, the mothers did get pissed at the school. Two of them, Heidi Goldstein and Rebecca Levenson, who is also policy analyst working to stop sexual violence with the nonprofit Futures Without Violence, wrote an op-ed for the Berkeleyside, laying out their daughters rights. Berkeleyside reports:

The student group plans eventually to challenge what they understand to be violations of Title IX. This includes reactive versus preventive measures, insufficient security, unsatisfactory long-term protection for assault survivors, as well as a lack of staff training.

 

Training is obviously desperately needed. When the slut pages came out, the security guards didn’t seem to get it at all. Sami Kuderna-Reeve, a senior and target of the slut accounts told Berkeleyside:

“It was all male security guards and all male police officers, and to a certain degree they can’t understand or relate,” Kuderna-Reeves said. “They were trying to help but what they kept getting at was, ‘Well is that true? Did you do blank?’”

 

While administrators are still slow to respond, teachers say they would like training on how to handle situations where students are sexually harassed and to give students guidance on how to handle those issues as well. History teacher Hasmig Minassian tells Berkeleyside she’d like to know “how to help adolescents navigate some pretty tumultuous social dynamics.” Right now, teachers at Berkeley High– and most high schools across the country– get no training in how to help kids in this area. It is shocking to me that students and their moms need to be the ones to get funding to teach administrators what to do about sexual harassment in schools. Part of these kids’s motivation for acting now is that they believe the measures finally being taken to stop sexual assaults on college campuses nationally are happening way too late in students’ lives. I could not agree more.

Maya Siskin-Lavine, a junior, tells Berkeleyside: “One of our main goals is to teach people. I know for a fact that a lot of the guys that I respect as my peers just don’t know that a lot of things are sexual harassment. They think catcalling is flattering and that what I wear should affect how guys treat me.”

I am so impressed with these girls and their mothers. I would love to see more moms speak out loudly and publicly for their daughters rights.

I just donated to this awesome campaign, and I hope that you do as well.

Pitt joins Jolie at summit against sexual violence

I’m posting this photo and headline (up above) because it’s inspiring to watch people acting together to make the world a better place.

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I am so grateful that Angelina Jolie gives her star power, her brain power, and her money to help women and girls around the world. I’m also impressed that Pitt has always supported her publicly. He never gives the impression that the conferences he attends are limited “women’s issues” that he condescends to be involved with. These conferences are about human rights. This couple– the images, text, and narratives that accompany them– make clear that women and men can love, support, and inspire each other, working to change the world.

One more thing this photo tells me: Don’t waste your time arguing with the backwards ideas of people like the “educated” and “brilliant” George Will. A while back, I posted parts of and commented on An open letter to privileged people who play devil’s advocate from feminsiting.com. It’s a great post for me, because in the past, I’ve felt obligated to speak to people who drag me backwards. Writer Juliana Britto points out in the post– these are my words– that she doesn’t  have the time to make entertaining cocktail conversation for people about the ideas she cares about just for their entertainment. Talking about these ideas is emotionally draining. If I’m trying to get to Z, I don’t have time to engage with the people that want to keep me at A. Especially when, as Britto points out we’ve heard it all before for thousands of years:

Some might challenge that I am shutting myself off to new ideas and censoring important opportunities for growth.

But these ideas you are forcing me to consider are not new. They stem from centuries of inequality and your desperate desire to keep them relevant is based in the fact that you benefit from their existence. Let it go. You did NOT come up with these racist, misogynistic theories. We’ve heard them before and we are f*cking tired of being asked to consider them, just one. more. time.

 

Here’s to hoping all of us act, do, and give money instead of just talking.

Read the story about Jolie, Pitt, and the summit against sexual violence here.

‘An open letter to privileged people who play devil’s advocate’

There is an amazing post on feministing.com titled: An open letter to privileged people who play devil’s advocate. I am so thankful that Juliana Britto wrote these words. I am so fucking sick of people arguing with me just to argue, just because it’s fun for them. It drives me crazy that people act like I haven’t heard all of their arguments “proving” me wrong about one million times before. I mean, seriously, Western civilization is based on your arguments, and you really think I haven’t heard them before???? When people persist with me, frustrated that I’m not “into it” they often claim that I’m the one “censoring” them or “closing my mind.”  Britto writes about this issue much more eloquently than I:

Some might challenge that I am shutting myself off to new ideas and censoring important opportunities for growth.

But these ideas you are forcing me to consider are not new. They stem from centuries of inequality and your desperate desire to keep them relevant is based in the fact that you benefit from their existence. Let it go. You did NOT come up with these racist, misogynistic theories. We’ve heard them before and we are f*cking tired of being asked to consider them, just one. more. time.

 

Got that? Don’t want to hear it. I’ve already heard it, read it, seen it for my entire life. Britto makes another important point people who argue with me for fun don’t seem to get:

It is physically and emotionally draining to be called upon to prove that these systems of power exist.

 

Right on, sister. Please, don’t use me for your fun and entertainment. I’m interested in changing the world, not keeping you from boredom. Again, Britto is more eloquent than me:

 

Imagine having weights tied to your feet and a gag around your mouth, and then being asked to explain why you think you are at an unfair disadvantage. Imagine watching a video where a young man promises to kill women who chose not to sleep with him and then being forced to engage with the idea that maybe you are just a hysterical feminist seeing misogyny where there is none. It is incredibly painful to feel that in order for you to care about my safety, I have to win this verbal contest you have constructed “for fun.”

 

When I was 28 years old, I was a producer for a talk radio show. The host of that show gave me a gift that changed my life. He consistently– even if he disagreed with me– helped me figure out my thought process. When I was at Point A and I wanted to get to Point Z, he helped me get there. I would make a point and he would say, “Yeah, I get it,” and then give several reasons why what I said made sense or was true. It was a remarkable skill that helped me to develop and grow as a thinker and as a person. Most people, when you say something new, will argue with you at Point A, tell you all the reasons why what you’re saying doesn’t make sense or can’t be true, so you never, ever get to Point Z. That, or silence. Those responses can be soul killing, especially if you are young, a young woman not used to being listened to or taken seriously, with baby ideas that you’re trying to develop.

Read the whole Britto’s whole post here.

Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons

On the Santa Barbara massacre, the Atlantic reports:

Suffice it to say that the killer was a misogynist, and that lots of women have reacted to his rampage by reflecting on how women are denied full personhood.

 

PolyMic reports:

Rather than seeing Elliot Rodger as a product of society, the media has depicted him as a bloodthirsty madman, a mere glitch in the system.

 

New Statesman reports:

The ideology behind these attacks – and there is ideology – is simple. Women owe men. Women, as a class, as a sex, owe men sex, love, attention, “adoration”

I’m reposting a blog I wrote after seeing Jimmy Fallon’s Vanity Fair cover. Look at these images. When will women in America be recognized as human beings equal to men?

Vanity Fair’s sexist Jimmy Fallon profile erases his wife, highlights Victoria Secret models

I’m a huge Jimmy Fallon fan. This is why I bought the new Vanity Fair where he’s on the cover even though it annoyed me that Fallon is shown in a suit while he’s flanked by two nameless women in bathing suits.

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There are more pics of Fallon and naked women inside the magazine. Reading the caption, I learned that the women are Victoria Secret models.

There is a third picture of Fallon and the women at what looks like New York’s Natural History museum. Once again, the women are in skimpy bikinis and we get a full view of ass. Fallon is once again pictured in a suit.

Showing important, powerful men fully clothed while women appear as naked accessories underscores the idea that men valued for what they do and think, while women are valued for how they appear. Vanity Fair repetitively resorts to this sexism. There’s a famous photo featuring naked Scarlett Johanssen, Keira Knightly, and Tom Ford. When Rachel McAdams refused to undress, she was asked to leave.

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Of course, Vanity Fair is hardly alone in promoting this sexist imagery. Here are five GQ covers that came out simultaneously: four men are shown in suits, one woman is shown naked.

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What about Rolling Stone?

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There’s Justin Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision” video where he is clothed and the women are naked.

Many claimed Timberlake was copying Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video where he is clothed and the women are naked, a pairing repeated in the infamous Miley Cyrus performance (where Miley was blamed for being a slut.)

“Alternative” musicians resort to the same cliche. Did you see Nick Cave’s latest album cover?

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The truth is, we’ve been dealing with the clothed man-naked woman pairing for a long time. Here’s a famous painting by Edouard Manet in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris that would make a perfect Vanity Fair cover.

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But here’s what really pissed me off about the Jimmy Fallon article. As I wrote, I’m a fan of the comedian, but part of the reason I bought the magazine is because I wanted to know more about his wife, Nancy Juvonen. She’s a film producer and a business partner of Drew Barrymore. Both Barrymore and Juvonen are interested in making movies where cool women get to have adventures. I wanted to hear the whole story about how Juvonen and Fallon met and fell in love, just the kind of thing you’d expect to find in a Vanity Fair profile right? They recently had a daughter, Winnie, so I assumed Fallon would be asked about being a new father. I’m an avid reader of Us Weekly and People and I often see pictures of their family. Fallon is always cuddling his baby, playing with her, smiling at her, and I was curious about his thoughts on raising a girl in the world. Another thing I wanted to hear about: Fallon is 39 while Juvonen is 46, a rare gap in Hollywood where a woman’s age is measured closer to dog years than man years. Do you see my point here? Fallon married a successful career woman who is 7 years older than him, and this, besides his talent, is part of the reason I admire the guy. But here’s the weird thing: Nancy Juvonen is missing from Fallon’s profile.

Juvonen isn’t mentioned at all until 5 pages into the piece. After writing that Fallon always watched “SNL” alone, the text reads:

His one concession to adulthood is that he now watches the program with his wife, the film producer Nancy Juvonen, and if she is awake his baby daughter, Winnie, born last July.

Can you imagine Vanity Fair doing a profile on a famous woman and not mentioning her big time producer husband or her new baby until page 5? The piece goes on for two more pages and there are just two more brief references to Juvonen. Here’s all the magazine has to say on how they met and why they married.

Though the Fever Pitch experience had a saving grace–it was through the film that he met Juvonen, one of its producers who he would marry in 2007– he considers his LA years kind of a lost period.

Here’s the final reference to Juvonen, about persuading Fallon to become the “Tonight Show” host.

It was Fallon’s wife who persuaded him to go with Michael’s instinct. “Nancy was like, ‘You’ve got to try it. You’ll be one of three human beings who have done it– Letterman, Conan, and you. You have to do it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,’” Fallon said.

That’s it. WTF? All Fallon’s wife gets in a profile is a few sentences in passing coupled with a cover and three photos where he’s shown with naked women? That’s not the Jimmy Fallon I love or wanted to read about.

‘If I never see another naked, enslaved, raped black woman on screen, I’ll be happy’

Last week, four black feminists participated in a panel discussion hosted by the New School titled: “Are You Still a Slave? Liberating the Black Female Body.” The talk– an in depth discussion about the influence of imagery and narrative on our culture and its role in creating our actual reality– went on for almost two hours. Yet, out of all this, the media reduced trenchant analysis into a sound byte, pitting one black woman against another: “Feminist scholar bell hooks calls Beyonce a terrorist.”

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I encourage you to watch the whole talk. I know you probably won’t, because, as I wrote, it’s two hours long. I didn’t intend to sit through it all myself, but I was so excited and fascinated by what these women were saying, I couldn’t stop listening to them.

These 4 women are creating new narratives and images, beyond woman as victim, sex object, slave. The discussion about Beyonce, specifically her Time cover where she’s shown in her underwear (which totally bummed me out as well when I saw it– why, why, why, the issue is about the most influential people and she’s practically naked, do you know how few women make it to the cover of Time?) is a few minutes of a larger, important talk about women, power, and the nature of reality.

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Here’s how bell hooks began the discussion:

Part of why I’m so excited and proud to be here today is that I’m up here with black women who are all about redefining and creating a different kind of image, liberating the black female body

Not a fan of “12 Years a Slave,” hooks says:

If I never see another naked, enslaved, raped black woman on the screen as long as I live,  I’ll be happy.

 

YES! I could not agree more. I am so sick of watching women get raped. After the talk, someone in the audience challenged hooks, saying she felt conflicted about hooks’ reaction to “12 Years:’

we still need to have those conversations about rape and violence on stage…how can we have those conversations, the role of slavery and colonization on women’s bodies? Can we make space for both?

 

Here’s how hooks responded:

Because we have been so saturated, I mean, I think one of the big lies that’s going around is, “Oh, we never talked about slavery, oh, we don’t have images of slavery.” We had “Roots” and more “Roots,” and there’ve been all these different books and productions, so that I think of that as a kind of myth building thing when people say, “Oh, we don’t have images.” Notice I didn’t say I don’t want to see anything about slavery. I don’t want to see those same tropes over and over again.

 

hooks speaks about some narratives that involve slavery she’d like to see, for example, when John Wollman and the Quakers met and decided they could not support slavery and believe in the god they believed in, that in fact, they owed back wages to slaves.

that would be an interesting film for me… more interesting to me as an image, as an idea than the repetitive image of victimhood, and I think that they’re all kinds of images and stories out there that could bring us into a different level of understanding.

 

hooks was making exactly the same point about Beyonce. She was referring to the repetition of sexualized images of women and how the inundation is an assault on our brains, especially for kids:

I see a part of Beyonce that is, in fact, anti-feminist, that is assaulting, that is a terrorist, in especially terms of the impact on young girls. I actually feel like the major assault of feminism in our society is has come from visual media… The tirades against feminism occur so much in the image making business…What I’m concerned about constantly in my critical imagination is why is it we don’t have liberatory images that are away from, not an inversion of, what society has told us, but our own sense of: what am I looking like when I am free?

 

That, right there, is what my whole blog Reel Girl is about. What does gender equality look like? Do we have any idea? Where do we see it, even in the fantasy world? If we can’t imagine it, we can’t create it. There is no good reason for the fantasy world– especially the fantasy world created for children– to be sexist, to put males front and center again and again, while females are literally marginalized and sexualized, stuck on the sidelines if they get to exist at all. To repeat, hooks says:

The tirades against feminism occur so much in the image making business

hooks wants new images. She says:

I would never want my child to see “12 Years a Slave” because it’s the imprint of the black, female body as victimized.

 

Again, totally agree. Obviously, “12 Years” isn’t a movie for kids, but I see endless books and movies, supposedly feminist ones where girls are mocked for being girls, then they rise above it and prove everyone wrong. Fuck that. I hope in children’s media I never have to read about or watch another girl dressing up as a boy, fighting or cooking “as good as a boy can,” from Mulan to Tamora Pierce to Elena’s Serenade to endless Minority Feisty. The reason this trope is awful for girls– and boys– is because before your child can understand the narrative, she needs to understand sexism. Instead of having Colette in “Ratatouille” give a whole speech about male dominated kitchens, why not make a movie with a female top chef and her best friend is a female talking-cooking rat? Audiences will buy that a rodent can run a three star restaurant but not a female? Like hooks says, we are saturated with this same old, same old. If we weren’t, it would be a different story (ha.) The slavery narrative in all its forms has its place, but we need a break. It’s too dominant. There are many other stories to tell.

By the way, hooks walks her talk. She wrote Happy to be Nappy for kids in 2001, and in this discussion, she says she includes it in her most important, favorite works.

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Another speaker on the panel, Shola Lynch, is a filmmaker whose most recent production is a documentary about Angela Davis.

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In referring to her film as “a political crime drama with a love story at the center,” she reframes Davis’ narrative. Next, Lynch is making a movie about Harriet Tubman, who she calls an “action heroine.” Can you believe there hasn’t been a movie about Harriet Tubman? Lynch says that even though Tubman’s story is true, people don’t “believe” it. The same phenomenon happened with the Davis movie. About selling that film, Lynch says:

So then I have conversations where somebody’s like, “Oh, it’s a great film as a documentary, but the only reason I would support it is I have to know who the main male characters are because it’ll be flipped to be a narrative, women’s stories don’t sell”… Her story is true, but not possible. People don’t believe it. But it’s all true.”

 

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Talking about why she would rather make movies about heroes than victims, Lynch refers to “symbolic annihilation:”

Symbolic annihilation is two things: not seeing yourself, but it’s also seeing yourself only denigrated, victimized etc, and what that does to you. We can talk about all the things that denigrate us, but I’d rather shift the camera, shift my gaze, and look for the images and the people and the places that feed me. I really do think, you talk about children, the more we create our culture, our cultural images– the books you write, the films I make, the alternatives, that these are artifacts that live, and they speak to people whether we’re there or not, bodies of work, and that is critical. I want to give one example. My daughter, she’s 4. She’s never known me not working on the Angela Davis film which took 8 years. She was so excited when I could show her the trailer. ..The trailer is like 2 minutes long and she watched that trailer over and over and over again…She would point out all the characters, she loved going ‘That’s Angela’s mom.” So she created Angela’s family and a sense of community just by watching this thing over and over again. But that’s not what I wanted to share. So she’s a little girl, she wants to be a princess, I’m trying to convince her she wants to be a warrior princess, that’s blonde and poofy and glam. She woke up one morning and her hair was all out, just like, you know, big, out, out, out. Usually it’s like, “Oh mom, my hair is too puffy.” This morning, after watching the trailer over and over again, she said, “I have Angela Davis hair.”  So I thought I was making this political crime drama with a love story at the center etcetera, etcetera, etcetra, but I was also making another image for young people to see and to perhaps relate to. And I was blown away, because I can tell her she’s beautiful all day long. I’m her mom, doesn’t count. The more we create the alternative universe which then becomes the universe.

Another panelist, writer Marci Blackman, echoes Lynch’s point:

My characters are the people who I grew up seeing every day who I don’t see, not just in literature, I don’t see them on TV…They weren’t there in the worlds that I was inhabiting when I would sit and go to the library and read, so I decided I wanted to write them, and I wanted to write people like me who I wasn’t seeing in the books either. I wanted to create these characters and put them out there, and I think what you say about self-representation and putting it out there to count as a counteract against these other images.

 

(This happens to be the second blog I’ve written about this talk. The earlier blog was all about Marci Blackman, who spoke about how she was stopped and searched by TSA agents because they couldn’t tell if she was male or female. No media outlets that I know of covered that discrimination story either.)

hooks ends the talk with this statement:

The journey to freedom has also been so much about the journey of imagination, the capacity to imagine yourself differently, counter-hegemonically, and that’s why the imagination is so important because Shola imagined Angela Davis in a different way from the images we had of her. That imagination of oneself, I would like us to end on that note and people can speak about creativity, because it is striking to me and I didn’t think about this when we were putting the panel together that for each of us, creativity and the uses of imagination have been what led us into the freedom we have. It has been what enhances my life every day. To be able to think and create and leap and jump beyond where I feel like we have been told, theoretically, intellectually that we should go.

Imagination inspires reality inspires imagination in an endless loop. It’s magic. That’s the point bell hooks was making about Beyonce. If you still don’t get it, here’s one last quote from hooks and then watch the video for yourself.

We can gather strength from the diversity of people’s stories, the diversity of people’s imagination.

 

Update: I just saw “Belle.” It’s such a great film that has to do with everything I blogged about here. Please go see it! Read my review here: “Belle” most extraordinary movie of the year, take your kids!

 

‘Greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books’

Politicians, world leaders, people who care about the evolution of the human race, please read today’s New York Times column by Nicola Kristof.

Please make a donation to Camfed.org. Just $40 from you buys a uniform so a girl can go to school.

Elevate the issue of sexual violence on the global agenda by telling your congressperson to pass the International Violence Against Women Act.

Send a girl to Camp Reel Stories!

As of this posting, Camp Reel Stories, a summer camp in the Bay Area that teaches girls to create media, has raised $17,350 of their $20,000 goal. They have 59 hours to raise the rest of the funds. Please help. I donated money and I hope you, too, take this opportunity to help a girl tell her story.

From the IndieGoGo campaign:

WHAT IS CAMP REEL STORIES?

Camp Reel Stories believes that when women are better represented behind the scenes in the media, they will be better reflected on the screen. Camp Reel Stories is a non-profit summer program designed to empower 13-18 year old women with the skills to create their own media, to view current media critically and thoughtfully, and to aspire to leadership in their field. 

Here’s a repost of my interview with Camp Reel Stories founder, Esther Pearl.

Bay Area’s Camp Reel Stories teaches girls to make movies

Posted on February 14, 2014

Last year, Esther Pearl and Zoe Boxer founded Camp Reel Stories, a media camp in the Bay Area for girls ages 13 – 18. Excited by the concept and curious about how the camp helps girls turn big dreams into practical action, I interviewed Pearl. Her responses are below. I cannot wait until my kids are old enough to experience this magical place.

What inspired you to found Camp Reel Stories?

 

I have worked in film and media production for 15 years, and though I really loved my work I was often disappointed in the lack of female characters on the projects I worked on and how few female colleagues I had.  When I became a parent to a little girl I dug deeper into this inequity and what I found was astonishing.

 

From 2006 to 2009, not one female character was depicted in G-rated family films in the field of medical science, law, politics, or as a business leader. In these films, 80.5% of all working characters are male and 19.5% are female, which is a contrast to real world statistics, where women comprise 50% of the workforce[1]. Even more staggering is the fact that this ratio, as seen in family films, is the same as it was in 1946. These statistics are enormously detrimental to young women’s impressions of themselves and their perceived value in the world. While this is disheartening, this also means there is a vast untapped market for both talent and products that represent the diversity of our society.

 

I look at this as a great opportunity to create change in not only the lack of equity in the industry, but a creative opportunity to create new filmmakers and producers that are excited about creating characters and storylines that interest them.

My partner and I created Camp Reel Stories (CRS) as a fun way to connect young women with professional mentors, give them story telling and production skills to tell stories that reflect their unique point of view, while incorporating media literacy and leadership workshops. CRS believes that when women and girls are better reflected behind the scenes they will be better reflected on the screen.

What do you teach the girls during the sessions? What do you think they get out of their time at the camp?

 

Our campers get a lot!  They learn filmmaking and production from leaders in the field, they take media literacy and leadership workshops. The girls work in small teams and have an adult producer that guides them the process and in just one week they write, shoot and edit a short film.  Last year we had six films completed and this year we will have even more! They also have the collaboration and creative skill building process mirrored for them as they see they professional mentors work together to create not only great short films, but a fun camp experience.

How many campers attend?

In 2013 we held our inaugural camp and we had 32 campers.  This year we will have 2 summer camps and can take up to 90 girls, and those spaces are filling fast.  You can apply at http://campreelstories.com/apply

What do the alumni go on to do?

Thus far we have 50% of of campers signed up again this year.  We have elected 2 student board members from our first cohort to the CRS board to help grow our organization.  Two of CRS films were accepted into a local film festival and were screened for a huge audience just this past Friday night and other festivals have asked me to submit their work.  100% of attendees surveyed from the CRS pilot camp said through CRS they learned how gender equity in the media affects the way women are perceived in the media, 85% now view the media more critically and 92% felt more comfortable in their leadership ability, felt their skills as filmmakers improved and plan to continue making films. 20% of our campers have made changes or created an educational plan for a career in the media.

 

Also many of our campers have used what they learned in camp to speak to their classes and schools about gender inequity in the media, sharing knowledge about the Bechdel test and to organize screenings of films with strong female characters.

What are some examples of media that you think promotes positive images or girls and women?

This is a tough one, because as an adult and a parent of young children I have a different lens than our campers about what a positive image is.  The media has made it harder and harder to decipher between a celebrity and a role model.  This is something I talk about a lot with my own kids and with our campers.  There is a difference between a Kardashian and an actress, it’s important to acknowledge that.

Personally I have seen a lot of films that have really interesting characters and relationships that wouldn’t always be appropriate for a younger audience and I like complicated characters.  Recently I saw and loved, Enough Said, Short Term 12, The Bling Ring, Philomena and Frances Ha.

With my daughter and son I find it so hard to find interesting characters in films that we all can enjoy.  We all really like the Miyazaki films and we are introducing films from awhile ago since the pickings are slim currently.  Some of those are Bend it like Beckham, Black Stallion, Mary Poppins. And everyone loved Brave and Despicable Me.

The campers also seem to be able to access to Netflix, Hulu and other online resources to search out media that they can relate to.  I was surprised that so many teenagers were familiar with some 80 and 90s classics, such as Breakfast Club, Harold and Maude, Amelie since they can’t find a lot of current media they can relate to.

What do you do during the rest of the year? Do you plan to expand? What are your goals for the camp?

The rest of the year is spent planning the future of Camp Reel Stories.  This year we will triple in size, we will offer 2 summer camps and an afterschool program in the fall. 40% of our campers are on financial aid so I am always fundraising to make sure that anyone that wants to attend can. The films from last year have been entered in several film festivals and now are being selected and screened.  I also try to collaborate with as many like minded organizations as possible.

We hope to offer camps in other locations the just the Bay Area in 2015 and we are researching those opportunities now.

What is a typical day at camp like?

Each day is a little different, but we incorporate icebreaking and leadership activities into every morning.  The girls are on an accelerated schedule, so they have to get to know one another AND learn filmmaking quickly so that they can get to creating their films.  Everyday they learn about some part of the creative process and immediately get hands on experience in that area.  On Monday morning 30-40 girls who don’t know one another walk into a room, but the end of the day the have formed a small team and have an idea of what they want to make. That process is impressive and we are amazed at how quickly the girls can set aside their differences to get on to the creative process.

Tuesday they learn storyboarding, audio and video and work with their team to finalize their story.  They also take a media literacy workshop so that they can see the direct correlation to the lack of representation both behind and in front of the camera. Wednesday they shoot, Thursday they learn to edit, and they edit a rough cut of their project and then at the end of the day show it to their fellow campers and get creative feedback.  Friday they fix, by either reshooting or reediting, anything that they want and on Saturday they screen it at a Camp Reel Stories film festival which 250 people attend.

It is amazing to see these young women come out of their shell in the course of the week and I can’t wait to see what this year brings.  We are restructuring a bit since we got requests for both more time to shoot and more media literacy.

It sounds like a lot of work, but we also have a lot of fun. In the end we are so proud of the work that the campers have done and the community created, not only with the campers, but with our volunteers, professional mentors and families.  It’s quite exciting to see everyone fired up to create media that is more interesting and reflects the diverse fabric of our lives.

 

Visit Camp Reel Stories here.

Donate here.

 

 

List of 55 colleges under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault

Here’s the list of the 55 colleges under federal investigation for mishandling sexual assault. Is your college on the list? My alma mater, University of Colorado at Boulder is here. If you are also an alumna, tell the institution you will donate no funds until they take action to protect the human rights of their students. If you are a student or if your child is a student, or if you know or care about a student at one of these institutions, contact the school and make your voice heard. Do something to end the epidemic of violence against women and girls in the USA.

•Arizona State University

•Butte-Glen Community College District

•Occidental College

•University of California-Berkeley

•University of Southern California

•Regis University

•University of Colorado at Boulder

•University of Colorado at Denver

•University of Denver

•University of Connecticut

•Catholic University of America

•Florida State University

•Emory University

•University of Hawaii at Manoa

•University of Idaho

•Knox College

•University of Chicago

•Indiana University-Bloomington

•Vincennes University

•Amherst College

•Boston University

•Emerson College

•Harvard College

•Harvard University – Law School

•University of Massachusetts-Amherst

•Frostberg State University

•Michigan State University

•University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

•Guilford College

•University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

•Minot State University

•Dartmouth College

•Princeton University

•Cuny Hunter College

•Hobar and William Smith Colleges

•Sarah Lawrence College

•Suny at Binghamton

•Denison University

•Ohio State University

•Wittenberg University

•Oklahoma State University

•Carnegie Mellon University

•Franklin and Marshall College

•Pennsylvania State University

•Swarthmore College

•Temple University

•Vanderbilt University

•Southern Methodist University

•The University of Texas Pan-American

•College of William and Mary

•University of Virginia

•Washington State University

•University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

•Bethany College

•West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

Start your summer reading early: Pick up ‘Redefining Girly’

UPDATED POST: REDEFINING GIRLY BLOG TOUR!

The Internet spreads all kinds of social ills, from cyberbullying to mainstreaming hardcore pornography, but for me, the good far outweighs the bad, because I’ve “met” people like the excellent and amazing author of Redefining Girly, Melissa Wardy. Melissa’s blog and online community are a truly invaluable resource that support protecting childhood and raising healthy kids. Now, lucky you– she’s written a book.

From author Melissa Wardy: Hi Margot and hello to all of your Reel Girl readers. I’m so thrilled to be making a stop on the Redefining Girly Blog Tour at one of the blogs that I personally really love. I hope all of you enjoy reading Margot’s thoughts on my new book Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween and at the end of the post find out how you can win one of two Redefine Girly t-shirt gift packs.

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Melissa started her children’s clothing company, Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies, not long after her daughter was born, because she couldn’t find a single onesie that showed a girl with an airplane. Really not cool, especially when she named her child after Amelia Earhart. On her site, Melissa writes:

Pigtail Pals was born in May 2009 with the mission to Redefine Girly! I believe girls need to see messages in early childhood that show females being smart, daring, and adventurous. As the saying goes, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

 

What I love about Melissa is that she walks her talk. A mom can tell her daughters all day long that pretty isn’t the most important thing about them, but if she’s obsessed with her appearance and dieting, what is she showing her kids about her values? The sad truth of parenting is that actions matter more than words, and kids learn from what they experience, not from what they hear you talk at them. That, in my opinion, is the hardest thing about being a mom: trying not to be a hypocrite. Notice I write trying, which brings me to why I value Melissa’s book and believe it’s essential reading for every parent. She helps me to not be a hypocrite and– this is super important–  to be kind as well. I know how to be reactive, to tell the truth and be angry about it (as Gloria Steinem famously said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.)” I’m not always sure how to effectively handle a sweet teacher who tells my daughter every morning how pretty she is, a “princess party” birthday invitation sent by a best friend, or a proposed “playdate” to the mall.

In 2014, the world our children live in is horribly sexist, a place where teachers, doctors, and family, often the people your children love and respect, indoctrinate them to expect and accept all kinds of gender stereotypes. But thanks to Melissa, you don’t have to cave in or isolate. You actually have choices in how you respond and act. Knowing this is liberating and calming. Melissa helps families transition from victims of gender stereotyping to creative heroes who are redefining a nd restoring childhood for our kids. For example, Melissa teaches you how to redefine girly in your own home, again by showing kids a new way with, for example, a hands on dad in the family who does laundry, by encouraging her son to play with dolls, by being a mom who uses tools and fixes things (along with cooking and cleaning), by eating desert with her kids and enjoying it. She gives advice on what to do if a friend or family member gives you hand me down clothes or toys that don’t fit with your ideal:

We’ll say “Thank you so much for thinking of us” and then politely decline or donate away items that carry messages that don’t fit with our family morals.

 

Simple, right? Yet, so many of us get tongue tied. Melissa’s book is full of useable, practical advice. With her signature combination of compassion and unflinching directness, Melissa gives tips for how to get friends and family on board. First, she reminds you: what you are doing is important. You are not insane. If you care about redefining girly, have no doubt that people will tell you the sexism that you see hurting children is trivial or doesn’t exist at all. Melissa writes:

Remember that you are not alone or crazy for seeing problems with the emotionally toxic ways our culture treats girls. The Resources section at the end of this book is full of alternatives, information, and the names of experts who can help. Our daughters deserve a girlhood free of harm and limitations.

 

Melissa lists specific tips on how to deal with criticism of your views:

Have a prepared team response you and your parenting partner will use that lets family know this is an issue you take seriously and that you want to have your wishes respected. My husband and I use “We want Amelia to be healthy and happy and we feel this is the best path to achieve that.” (We use the same message for our son.)

 

Have fun alternatives ready to suggest to family and friends who bring media into your home that you feel are unhealthy. This way you are not just saying no to their media, you are saying yes to healthier choices.

 

Have a secret signal for your kids to use so they can communicate to you that they need to ask you a question or talk to you about something later (like a baseball coach signal– helpful when a gift is given or a comment is made that your kids know goes against what you teach in your home.)

 

Melissa also has great one-liners that come in handy including: colors are for everyone, pretty’s got nothing to do with it, toys are made for kids not genders, there are many ways to be a boy/ girl.

Excellent sections in the book include: Encouraging kids at play– the Diverse Toy Box, Around the Kitchen Table– Fat Talk and Body Image, Using Your Voice and Consumer Power To Fight the Companies Making Major Missteps, and my favorite– Becoming the Media You Want to See.

I can’t recommend this book more. Not only will it help you redefine girly, but it shows you how to have fun and be happy while you’re changing the world. I’ve been trying to blog about this book since it came out in January and I tore through it, but it was too damn hard because I wanted to quote the entire thing. Today, I set myself a time limit and my time is up. (I only got through my notes on the first couple chapters.) So I’ll end with THANK YOU MELISSA. I think you’re about 10 years younger than me, but you’re my role model. I can’t wait to see what you do next.

Reel Girl rates Redefining Girly ***HHH***

From author Melissa Wardy: Thank you Margot for those wonderful words about my book. It is an honor to receive accolades from such a well-versed writer in this area but also from a woman and mom whom I highly respect. I would love to hear from your audience now and have them share either something they have learned from Redefining Girly if they have already read it, or have them describe an issue/concern they have currently with their daughter that they are hoping to learn more about when they do read the book. I’ll pick two winners to receive a Redefining Girly t-shirt gift pack (two tees + shipping). Winners will be chosen Friday May 30 at 8pm PST so make sure to get a comment in before then! Okay Reel Girl readers, what are your thoughts on Redefining Girly?”